At home or in the classroom, teachers redefining teaching in 2020

Math+Teachers+Divide...+and+Conquer%3A++Mrs.+Lisa+Wright+teaches+her+1st+period+math+class+at+North+Penn+High+School+on+Tuesday%2C+October+20%2C+2020.+Wright+has+been+teaching+from+the+building+since+the+beginning+of+the+school+year+and+now+faces+the+hybrid+learning+model+beginning+in+a+few+weeks.+

Kevin Manero

Math Teachers Divide… and Conquer: Mrs. Lisa Wright teaches her 1st period math class at North Penn High School on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. Wright has been teaching from the building since the beginning of the school year and now faces the hybrid learning model beginning in a few weeks.

When North Penn decided to go all virtual, students didn’t have the choice. They had to stay home and complete work completely from their bedrooms. Meanwhile, teachers were faced with a decision at hand. Do you stay home as well and create a setup that will allow you to lead a bunch of students efficiently or go back into the building and return to an empty classroom? 

History teacher Mr. Joel Wilson, who decided to stay at home completely during the restart of school, explained that he did not really see value in going into school without any students being there. 

“My idea was that if we are going to be virtual anyway, I might as well be home and comfortable rather than at school in a classroom of empty students,” Wilson explained. 

Perhaps the factor weighing most heavily on teachers’ minds was the risk of COVID-19 spread. Possible spread to oneself or family members was something that everyone around the school, and around the world, had to ask themselves about before returning to their workplace. Wilson definitely had expressed slight concern ahead of coming back into the High School. 

“I definitely still have my concerns to be honest with you but, I am not fearful of it.” Wilson said. “I would hate to be exposed to something that I could potentially bring home to my family.”

While Wilson has stayed home for his justified reasons, he does note that he would definitely prefer to be back in the building with a full classroom. 

“I feel like I am a people person…it stinks that I am not seeing half of [my students] and not being able to build relationships with [my students] in the same way. I believe I am a better teacher when in person.” 

I feel like I am a people person…it stinks that I am not seeing half of [my students] and not being able to build relationships with [my students] in the same way. I believe I am a better teacher when in person.”

— Mr. Joel Wilson, NPHS Social Studies teacher

The teachers who decided to stay home were not restricted to stay at their homes. Teachers were able to have their own hybrid sort of schedule and pop into the building when felt obliged to do so. Mr. Kyle Berger, who teaches Video editing, as well as being the activities director, would be in and out of the building based on a multitude of factors. One factor, which is a big one for a lot of teachers, is their child care situation. 

“For me personally, I have a two and a half year old daughter at home. She goes into daycare Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. So my first reaction was to try and get out of the house those days she is home because of the constant she needs which could lead to being a distraction from class.” Berger explained.

On those days when in the building, many teachers, including Mr.Berger, feel an emptiness because of the thousands of students missing. Along with no students, the staff inside the building is also depleted, leading to a blank and eerie feeling. 

“The environment within the building really is that there is none,” Berger said. “You walk in and sign in so they know to clean your room after you are done, then basically sequester in your room with the door closed for the day.” 

One thing that has given North Penn the slightest sense of normalcy is that morning announcements and NPTV have continued throughout the school year. Mr. Berger acknowledges the struggles but is definitely proud of the work the staff has done. 

“One of the things we are most proud of is that we continued the morning show and it was really popular. It is something that the school unites around and I think it was something that was important to have around. Credit to Mr.Gilmer for being able to get a google meet streaming live on NPTV.”

One of the things we are most proud of is that we continued the morning show and it was really popular. It is something that the school unites around and I think it was something that was important to have around. Credit to Mr.Gillmer for being able to get a google meet streaming live on NPTV.”

— Mr. Kyle Berger, NPHS Video Production teacher/ Activities Adviser

The sense of normalcy was something needed for the NP community, and when thinking about how different everything else has already been, math teacher Mrs. Lisa Wright knew she had to be inside the building when it came to virtual learning. 

“I need a routine in my life,” Wright elaborated. “Everyday knowing I am getting up and coming into work returned a little bit of normalcy to my life that I felt I didn’t have when working from home.” 

Being a math teacher ended up being a key factor in Mrs. Wright’s decision to be inside the building. Noticing that trying to display work on paper or make videos for her students, like in the Spring, was not the most effective way to communicate the lesson. 

Mrs. Lisa Wright is fully equipped with her teaching materials and ready for each class, despite them learning at a distance.

“In math, a large part is being able to demonstrate live for students. Last Spring, I was making videos for the students to watch but, to watch a [premade] video just does not have the same interactive feeling. I realized they need to see this worked out in front of them on the board to really get a grasp of the concept.” 

Wright decided that giving her best in terms of providing an adequate lesson for her students would translate to better results from her students. She is very optimistic that this hybrid model will be able to get the best out of her students, while protecting herself and everyone else around her from the spread of COVID-19.

“When the students come back on November 9th, I am not concerned,” said Wright. “We are doing everything we can to meet the guidelines put out by the CDC. Those guidelines would not be there if they were not the greatest measure of protection we can take against the virus. Everyone just needs to be willing to follow the protocols.”

With all teachers returning to the building on October 19th to get accustomed to the building and the new classroom set up, the choice is eliminated for teachers. Teachers are looking forward to seeing colleagues again and returning to their old spot as long as all safety measures are followed properly. The rest of the North Penn community which includes students will return in a hybrid model on November 9th.